Special status species are those plants or animals that have been officially listed, proposed for listing, or are candidates for listing as threatened or endangered under provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as well as those listed by a state in a category implying potential endangerment or extinction, and those designated by a BLM State Director as sensitive.
Primary Causes of Species Decline
Habitat loss, competition, predation, disease, and other factors are the primary causes of species decline and imperilment. Habitat loss and modification due to human activities are the greatest threats to ecosystems, particularly for species that are adapted to specific ecological niches. BLM land management practices are intended to sustain and promote species that are legally protected and sustain species not yet protected. Data on numerous special status species is tracked by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and other partners. The BLM regularly assists with these studies.
A Focus on Habitat
While our partners’ chief interest is population status and trends, the BLM focuses its efforts on habitat maintenance and enhancement. The quantity and quality of preferred and suitable habitat, as well as the ability to support prey species are evaluated. The BLM also tracks conditions and restricts certain activities in critical breeding, foraging, and wintering areas and migration corridors.
Protecting Federally Listed Species
The ESA mandates the protection of species listed as threatened or endangered of extinction, and the habitats on which they depend. Section 7 of the ESA clarifies the responsibility of federal agencies to carry out programs for the conservation of listed species. In addition, federal agencies must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by an agency is “…not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat of such species…”.
The UFO analyzes the effects of proposed actions on threatened, endangered and candidate species and designated critical habitat for these species. Twelve federally protected plant and animal species potentially occur in the planning area, including two candidate species, the Gunnison prairie dog and the yellow-billed cuckoo. Federally designated critical habitat for three of these species also occurs in the planning area.
Cooperation Between State and Federal Agencies
Federally listed threatened and endangered species and designated critical habitat are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in cooperation with other federal agencies, with the ultimate goal of species recovery and viability. The BLM cooperates with the FWS to identify and manage habitat for listed species that have not had critical habitat identified and designated. Consultation is required on any action proposed by the BLM or other federal agency that “may affect” a listed species or critical habitat.
The BLM assists the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) with the collection of information for certain species. While CDOW is interested primarily in population dynamics and demographics, the BLM's principle responsibility is habitat condition and quality based on plant community attributes, as well as a site’s capacity to sustain native wildlife species. Within this framework, the BLM focuses on key animal species and their habitats.
BLM Sensitive and Candidate Species
Candidate species are managed to maintain viable populations in order to avoid listing. Colorado State and BLM sensitive species are treated similarly. The BLM, FWS, and the State of Colorado have developed formal and informal agreements to provide guidance on species management.
Other Non-listed & Non-status Species (including Big Game, Migratory Birds, and Game Fish)
While the BLM is responsible for managing fish and wildlife habitats in a condition that will sustain desired levels of a species, CDOW is directly responsible for managing wildlife population levels. Population data on game animals is tracked by the CDOW, and increasingly for key non-game species.